PHBR2 The Complete Book of Thieves introduces us to the Guildmaster of Gryrax, Septien Selfareine ("the White Lily"), who grew up in the Faerie Kingdom of Celene. Two things stood out for me in the description relating to the cultural level of that kingdom.
Septien gives well-attended public performances on "harpsichord-like instruments". Harpsichords were invented in the 15th century on Earth.
Septien as a youth in Celene had his heart broken by a "haughty grey elf ballerina". Ballet also originated in the 15th century on Earth.
Though I've heard a lot of divergent opinions on this over the years, 15th century technology level seems a bit too modern for the Flanaess--unless Celene is more advanced (perhaps only in performance arts) than the human realms.
What do others think? Should the Flanaess have ballets and harpsichords? or should only Celene? or should I change these references to something more appropriately "grey"?
"15th century" seems just fine if we also take into full plate armor and spyglasses, no? Honestly I've been growing more accustomed to seeing worlds like Oerth and Toril as being less "Medieval" and more "Renaissance."
Certainly there's some archaic elements, but the same is true for the SoulCalibur series which takes place between 1583 (Soul Edge/Blade) and 1607 (SoulCalibur V).
It's always worth remembering that even in the real world, differing areas developed technologies at different rates to suit their needs. A fantasy world should be no different.
For example, Dwarves are highly advanced miners and metalworkers. I expect crude tunneling machines and early blast furnaces would not be terribly out of place in a large dwarven city.
Elves, having access to a lot of magic, would tend to rely more on that magic for military and production. But their extremely long lifespan means arts and entertainment become very important... and so, they tend to focus their technological development into these areas.
An interesting experiment for a game might be to imagine humanity focusing it's efforts into medical technology. They're confronted by long-lived but friendly demihuman races they're jealous of, and fast-breeding but hostile humanoids they're threatened by. Under these circumstances, keeping their population healthy and capable longer would be a strong benefit... especially if doing it doesn't depend on the whims of gods, priests, and wizards.
Thanks for posing this question edmundscott. I've long enjoyed conversing about technologies in Greyhawk and am presently puzzling over related issues vis-à-vis sailing ships.
From the description, it sounds like the PHBR2 The Complete Book of Thieves author(s) painted an image of Celene in Renaissance or even Baroque colors.
I generally endorse Jason's approach regarding your "taste" as DM. If you enjoy depicting Celene and its faerie olves with lots of lace and think your players would similarly enjoy such imagery, go for it.
For myself, I think having olven performers approach or mix Earthly ballet and opera could work, but a harpsichord-like instrument seems too bulky. I'd instead feature olven elaborations or refinements of harps, lutes, and viols and similar stringed instruments.
On another hand, olven culture in Celene (and Keoland for that matter) is both ancient and long-standing in the sense of having a relatively unbroken line of development. There's no indication that even the Hateful Wars or Turrosh Mak's invasion of the Welkwood conquered Celene or otherwise caused any wholesale disruption or devolution of its peoples and their traditions (e.g., Fey Mysteries). For the Principality of Ulek, Mak's invasion (if you use it) and the earlier accommodations with Keoland arguably impacted / changed the hill dwur culture, but my sense is that this cultural contact spurred innovation rather than setting back dwur knowledge and technology.
In any case, please share with us what you ultimately determine for your campaign.
Thanks, everyone, for the suggestions, and thanks, especially, Grodog, for reminding me of that tech map on Facebook (is that the same Chris Clark who wrote with Gygax?)
I did a bit of research and discovered a harpsichord-like instrument the virginal, which is what I'm going to go with for Septien. There's something I like with the notion that elves invented keyboard instruments—perhaps they taught Heward prior to the construction of his famous Organ.
I've had more trouble trying to get any sense of what Renaissance ballet actually looked like, so if anyone has any suggestions for what the highly-stylized dances of the faeries of Celene might be like, let me know.
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